I would not be a true fan of Barbara Gordon if I weren’t at least peripherally aware of the DC Super Hero Girls (2015 – 2018). Aimed at young girls and with an accompanying toy, costume and clothing line, the web series focuses on the female characters of the DC universe in a decidedly family-friendly way.
The bottom line: they’re cute, the easter eggs are fun for fans and the original cast from the animated Teen Titans series reprise their roles when their characters are featured.
Those aren’t what I want to talk about this week.
While procrastinating this weekend, I managed to stumble upon a series of shorts under the same name but with a very different tone and art style. I love them.
This iteration of “DC Super Hero Girls (2019 – )” was developed by Lauren Faust as a television series for Cartoon Network. The first season is currently available on Netflix — pending further bouts of procrastination for investigation by this reporter — and a series of “Super Shorts” is available on YouTube.
Faust is also responsible for the series of shorts “Super Best Friends Forever” that I loved instantly for their inclusion of Donna Troy/Wondergirl and still find entertaining with their quirky look at the more tedious aspects of being a superhero and a teenage girl.
The new series has that same tone. The shorts show the daily struggles of Batgirl, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Bumble Bee, Green Lantern Jessica Cruz and Zatanna as high schoolers, with various other DC characters being featured on occasion.
Unlike other animated shows featuring young heroes, it focuses on the characters’ flaws and celebrating them. There’s no rush to save the day and more often than not the characters are shown using their powers in monotonous, almost selfish ways: Batgirl rushes to hide the hamster she’s caring for from the health inspector at her after school job. Supergirl gets injured and makes Wonder Woman help care for her long after she’s healed. The Flash uses his superpowers to deliver cake and destroys it in the process.
By exaggerating aspects of each character’s personality it comes off almost as a satire. A loving and well written one at that. More than anything, it’s these little slices of domesticity that really showcase the characters and make these goofy shorts great.
Comics have been getting increasingly grim and dark in the name of trying to be taken seriously, whatever that means, and relying on shock value to boost sales. You can only kill Robin so many times though and the characters have become one dimensional in favor of convoluted plots.
This new “DC Super Hero Girls” provides the fun and character driven stories that its comics origin is sorely missing. I recommend giving them a search the next time you need a break from studying, if only for the tongue-in-cheek nod to the 1966 Batman film and its “Shark Repellent Bat-Spray.”